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What Peels Are Safe for African-American Skin?

I have a yellow/tan complexion (similar to Beyonce's), and I'd like to find out what peels are safe for me. I've searched for a long time for this answer and can't find the true answer (for example, some sites say TCA can be used, then some sites say TCA is not for non-white skin). Thank you for your answers!

Doctor Answers 13

TCA can be risky for African-American skin.

I would start with a salicylic acid peel (20%) or Jessner's peel. These solutions tend to be less problematic for African-American skin. TCA peels in ethnic skin should be used with caution and I would not go higher than 10% TCA. If I was going to use TCA on African-American skin, I would probably do a small test spot and follow up in 1 month to ensure that it did not cause a pigmentary problem.

San Diego Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

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Benefits of Chemical Peels

Almost everyone can benefit from chemical peels.  You are no exception.  The most important thing to do is to find a dermatologist who has extensive experience with chemical peels so that they know how best to treat your skin.  I am from Miami originally and I can tell you there are a large number of very well-trained dermatologists there.  Please avoid the med-spas and non-dermatologist/plastic surgeon providers!

Victoria W. Serralta, MD
Arlington Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Peels for African American Skin

The issue with darker skin is not whether you can or cannot have a peel; the issue is how aggressive that peel is. That is, the more aggressive the peel the more likely you will have post-treatment hyperpigmentation. For example, a high strength TCA peel would not be for you, but a very low strength TCA peel or even a light glycolic peel could be used on your skin.

David Goldberg, MD
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
3.5 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

The depth of the peel should be matched to the depth of the problem you are trying to correct

The type of peel appropriate for you depends upon what condition you are trying to improve. For a peel to work you need to match the depth of the peel to the depth of the problem. It is true that in darkly pigmented skin caution must be exercised with chemical peeling. A good initial peel to try is a Jessner's peel. This is an intra-epithelial peel. It would correct texture problems and make the skin smoother. You may also consider a treatment like microdermbrasion. Exercise caution and start slowly would be my best advice.

Jeffrey Zwiren, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

Safe Peels For African-American Skin

The safety and efficacy of any chemical peel is dependent upon preparation, depth, post care and the experience of the clinician administering the peel.  When treating African-American skin and other ethnic skin types, prepping the skin for a chemical peel is a necessity.We routinely administer the Obagi Blue Peel ( a TCA peel)  on ethnic skin, but our patients must prep at least 4 weeks prior to the peel, are educated extensively on how to care for their skin post peel and encouraged to adhere to their prescribed skin care regimen to obtain optimal results. Now, every peel is not for everybody, but your clinician(after a thorough consultation) will be able to determine what peels are most suitable for your skin type. 

Many peels suitable for African-American Skin

Peels come in all strengths and types. Yes, there are many peels that can be done on African-American skin types. It is important to first have your skin assessed by a medical professional, especially with your skin colour. Some side effects of receiving an incorrect treatment may be permanent. Glycolic and Lactic Peels generally don’t cause peeling and are great to start with. These peels will help improve skin tone, texture, pore size, oil production etc. In some cases stronger peels such as Salicylic acid and Resorcinol can safely be performed as well. Companies distributing these peels will all have different protocols regarding their individual peels so it’s important to receive a consultation prior to any treatment.

15% sal acid, 20% Lactic, 1% Retinoic, 10% TCA, 20% Glycolic

If you were to goto TCA, it has to be low, Id start at 10% done by a specialist, move up to 12-15%, single coat. 
The other options I listed are safe. I particularly like the high strength vitamin A peel, ie. 1% Retinoic- its cost effective, safe, and works. 

Glycolic acid can be used safely, providing they are neutralised properly. 


Dr Davin Lim 
Laser Dermatologist

Davin Lim, MBBS, FACD
Brisbane Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Safe Peels

Typically, fair skinned patients are better suited to be treated for deeper chemical peels. However, this is not a definite “no” to your question.   Darker skin types can benefit safely from superficial chemical peels to treat acne, dullness and mild pigment issues.  Newer deeper chemical peels like the Dermaceutic Spot Peel are designed for darker skin types to avoid the possibility of uneven skin pigmentation.  The key is to find an experienced, caring medical practice with patients of all skin types.


Yael Halaas, MD
Manhattan Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Peels Are Safe for African-American Skin

A consultation with your provider would be the first start.  For very
dark skin a different peel may be needed versus a lighter shade.  A
Jesners peel or salicylic acid may be a better choice than a TCA peel.
With chemical peels its best to do a series of treatments.


Edward E. Dickerson, IV, MD
Fayetteville Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Palomar Artisan Laser for Skin of Color

It takes care, expertise and experience to achieve outstanding results with the resurfacing of skin of color. There are a variety of techniques that are effective in the treatment of dark skin. A mainstay is a good daily skincare regimen. This may include glycolic acids, topical antioxidants and hydroquinone, a lightening cream. This foundation of daily skin care prepares the skin for resurfacing techniques and assures results that are free of complications such as blotchiness of the skin. Once the skin is properly pre-conditioned, certain TCA peel solutions are successful and we have found that our patients have been very pleased with the Artisan laser, a technologically more precise laser method that we prefer over peeling techniques. 

Ross A. Clevens, MD
Melbourne Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.